This morning I was listening to an episode of Jocko Willink’s podcast while I was ironing in my hotel room. In the episode he addressed a listener’s question about how to start exercising after not exercising for a long time. The listener basically wanted to know if he should jump right into a hard routine or ease into it. Jocko’s advice was somewhere in between the ends of the spectrum. Basically, don’t go so hard that you experience D.O.M.S. (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) but hard enough that you feel good about being challenged.
Listening to Jocko’s answer made me think about what I would say to someone who wanted to start exercising again after a long layoff from it. While I’m not a professional trainer, I have started and stopped exercise habits many times in the last decade. Here’s what has worked for me.
- Start! Do something, do anything that gets you moving out of your physical fitness comfort zone. For some people this might be just taking the stairs instead of the elevator. For others it might be trying to run a mile or bike a mile. The point is to start doing something.
- Do something that is at least mildly enjoyable. I hate running on a treadmill, so I only do it when it is the only cardio option available to me. I did it three time this week because I was staying at a Hampton Inn that only had two pieces of equipment and one of them was inoperable. If you told me that the only way that I could get in shape was to run on a treadmill every day, I would be as big as a house. But I ran on the treadmill because I wanted to maintain cardio momentum for when I get back to my bike at home. I love biking and so I’ll run if it means that I’ll be better on my bike when I get home.
- Find a time that consistently works for you. Common advice is to exercise first thing in the morning. That doesn’t work for me because my kids start stirring at about 4:30am. The afternoon is my sweet spot for exercise because that’s about the time that my mental acuity wanes and I need to do something that doesn’t require much thinking.
- Create an accountability system for yourself. For me, that is running this blog. For you, it could be checking-in on the Ed Tech Fitness Flipgrid.
- Remember that every little bit helps. When I really got into road cycling someone who was a very good racer gave me the tip that every training mile helps. Even if that mile was only to the post office for stamps, it helped. In other words, if there is a day that you can only exercise for 15 minutes, that is better than exercising for zero minutes. Feel good about doing those 15 minutes instead of feeling bad that you only did 15 minutes.
Notice What’s Not on the List?
The list doesn’t include buying new shoes, new clothes, a new watch, or even getting a gym membership. You don’t need those things to start exercising. You can find hundreds of free exercise videos on YouTube. I use the Global Cycling Network’s free cycling fitness workouts.
What’s Your Advice?
Those of you who have good exercise habits, what’s your advice for those just getting started? What’s your advice to keep the habit going?